First Lady Laura Bush & Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott Join Texas Casa To Kick Off A New Statewide Campaign To Recruit Casa Volunteers

Texas Casa Launches New Laura Bush Psa To Air Statewide


Austin — Former First Lady Laura Bush today threw her support behind Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) in a special launch of a public awareness campaign to recruit new CASA volunteers across Texas.

“Every year thousands of abused and neglected children are placed in foster care. Each one of these children need someone they can count on to help them get through the foster care system and into a caring home,” said Former First Lady Laura Bush, in the new PSA. “CASA volunteers do this every day, but we need more good people to speak up for children. Consider becoming a CASA volunteer or supporter. You will make a lifelong difference in a child’s life and your own.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott joined the First Lady in a call for more CASA volunteers in a news conference releasing the popular First Lady’s new PSA.

“Every day, CASA volunteers, government leaders and members of the judiciary work together to protect abused and neglected children,” Attorney General Abbott said. “The state’s foster care system — and the children it serves — relies on trained CASA volunteers to help protect child abuse victims. We encourage more Texans to step forward, become a CASA volunteer and join the dedicated network of selfless advocates who provide a safety net for Texas foster children.”

Attorney General Abbott added: “Serving as a CASA volunteer provides advocates a unique opportunity to make a tremendous difference in a child’s life — and in the State’s future. Encouraged and supported by CASA volunteers, our State’s youngest victims are able to gather the courage to rebuild their lives, restore their trust, and start down the path to a bright and promising future.”

Volunteers are desperately needed to help protect Texas children in foster care, especially with the upcoming cuts to the Child Protective Service Budget in the next biennium. In 2010, 227 Texas children died of abuse and neglect in Texas. Nearly 43,000 children were in foster care in 2010 and Child Protective Services estimates that more than 51,000 will be in care by 2014.

“Children are often shuffled from home to home in the foster care system and feel scared and alone,” said Texas CASA Executive Director Joe Gagen. “The CASA volunteer is the one constant caring adult in a child’s life who mentors the child and helps the child find a safe and loving home.”

Carol Cates, a CASA volunteer from Austin, is one of those caring and compassionate advocates for children. She recalls how she began helping a 12-year-old girl named Jessica in 2003. Her mother had a drug problem and Jessica was abandoned. She moved to many different foster homes during her childhood. Cates, the CASA volunteer, was the only constant in her life during those years of turmoil and distress.

“Jessica is just one example of the thousands of children who are abused and neglected in our state and who need our help,” said Cates. “As Jessica was shuffled through the system, I mentored her and believed in her and was a consistent adult in her life. I attended her high school graduation and I am so proud of her as she has entered college,” said Cates.

Jessica Chapman, a former foster care child, said it was tough growing up in the foster care system. “I feel blessed I was lucky enough to have Carol as my CASA volunteer. She was always there for me and helped guide me through the years. She encouraged me to go to college. I worked and raised money to buy my own car and rent my own apartment and I saved to attend the closest college campus 28 miles away from my home. I began college life as a freshman in the Fall 2010, studying at Blinn College.”

In FY 2010, 6,619 CASA volunteers advocated for 20,861 children in CPS custody. They helped guide the children through the overburdened foster care system to safe, permanent homes. But, this number represents less than HALF of the children in CPS custody last year. 8,300 more children will be entering the child welfare systems by 2014, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Studies have shown that children who have CASA volunteers spend a shorter time in foster care and are less likely to return to the system, which is good for children and good for taxpayers.

“We are here speaking up for abused children who have no voice,” said Joe Gagen, CEO of Texas CASA. “Too many children are abused and neglected and hundreds of children are dying each year. We need thousands of caring adults to get involved in a child’s life and become a CASA volunteer. We are excited to partner with the cable industry that is generously donating millions of dollars in airtime to help our campaign. We want to thank Time Warner, Suddenlink, Grande, Comcast and Charter for their generous support,” said Gagen.

Texas CASA is a statewide association of 69 local CASA programs that recruit, train and supervise community volunteers who are court appointed to represent the best interests of children in CPS custody due to evidence of abuse or neglect. Each CASA volunteer is appointed to advocate for one child or set of siblings so he or she can get to know the child or sibling group and what the children’s current and future needs are.

The CASA volunteer visits the child regularly, monitors the child’s progress and the progress of the CPS case in general. The CASA volunteer interviews everyone involved in the child’s life and reviews all relevant medical, educational and legal records, and reports his or her findings to the court and other parties. CASA volunteers make recommendations to judges about the children’s best interests now and in the future.

When home is no longer safe for a child, and the child must enter the foster care system, a judge may appoint a committed volunteer called a CASA or Court Appointed Special Advocate®. The volunteer’s focus is on that child, giving hope and help in guiding the child to a safe, permanent home. Make a difference. Consider becoming a CASA volunteer. Visit

The new Laura Bush Public Service Announcements will begin running on cable this month.

• Every 8 minutes a child in Texas was a victim of abuse or neglect
• A child died from abuse and neglect every 38 hours in Texas
• 1 out of every 100 children was a victim of abuse or neglect in Texas
• Nearly 40,000 or 59% of those children were infants to 6 years old
• Nearly 43,000 children were in the case and custody of DFPS
• Nearly 22,000 children, more than half the children in care, did NOT have CASA advocates as they made their journey through foster care

Source: DFPS Data Book for FY 2010 (Sept. 1, 2009-Aug. 31, 2010)
For more information about your county, go to the Data Book.